Tea Sri Lanka 191 and 28 for 0 (Thirimanne 17*, Karunaratne 11*) trail South Africa 235 and 259 (du Plessis 90, de Kock 55, Embuldeniya 5-66, Vishwa 4-71) by 276 runs
On his international debut, Lasith Embuldeniya picked up 5 for 66 to bowl South Africa out 40 minutes before tea on the third day. With Vishwa Fernando also taking 4 for 71, the hosts lost their last five wickets for just eight runs, but Sri Lanka were still left with a stiff fourth innings target thanks to Quinton de Kock's second fifty of the match and Faf du Plessis' 90. At tea, openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne chippd out 28 from their 304-run target.
Du Plessis was part of two vital partnerships, first adding 96 in concert with de Kock and then a further 60 with Vernon Philander to push his team further into safety before the dramatic collapse. The big turnaround for Sri Lanka came after the 66th over, when the ball had to be changed after picking up a white mark from landing on one of the crease lines. South Africa added just 28 runs after the ball was changed, Embuldeniya and Fernando striking repeatedly as the collapse started in earnest.
Embuldeniya's dismissal of Philander kicked things off. Having temporarily adopted a defensive line from over the wicket, the left-arm spinner switched around and soon got one to skid through, beating the under edge and rattling the stumps. Vishwa then got the better of du Plessis after an engaging battle between bat and ball. He troubled him with zip and brought indecision into his batting. The uncertainty soon told as du Plessis shouldered arms to one that seamed in to hit his front pad right in front of the stumps.
Embuldeniya had his fifth when Kagiso Rabada gloved a turning delivery onto his thigh with Niroshan Dickwella completing the catch. South Africa were nine down in the very next over when Fernando disturbed Keshav Maharaj's stumps. Dale Steyn lasted all of six deliveries before he walked across the stumps to flick, only to expose the stumps that were rattled. This left the openers with a task of seeing off a tricky passage, which they did.
The speed of their collapse notwithstanding, South Africa had enjoyed a profitable morning with the bat as du Plessis and de Kock rapidly moved their team from parity into a position of strength. Without a cloud covering, there was not much swing on offer for the quicks in the first hour, and as the more adventurous partner de Kock was soon on his way with three boundaries in Vishwa Fernando's first two overs of the morning.
Having started slowly, du Plessis caught up to de Kock with a pair of drives off Lakmal, the first of which took the team's score past 150. The second was the shot of the morning as du Plessis played with a straight bat, high elbow and held the pose for the cameras as he laced it through the covers.
With both batsmen ticking, the lead soon progressed beyond 200, and there were other concerns for Sri Lanka in the field. Kusal Mendis was struck on an already-strapped right hand as he dived low to pouch a thick edge off du Plessis, and immediately left the field in pain. He didn't come back out for the remainder of the session, although his absence was mostly precautionary as Kusal Mendis is still recovering from a bad finger injury he picked up on Sri Lanka's recent tour of Australia.
It was Embuldeniya who finally broke through for Sri Lanka, trapping de Kock with one that spun back in sharply to hit the pad. He burnt a review in trying to contest a decision that looked very straightforward. Philander walked in with South Africa already 235 ahead, while at the other end du Plessis brought up his 18th Test fifty, and first at this ground, with a cut to deep point off Kasun Rajitha.
That pair batted on into second session, but the change of ball also brought a change of fortunes for Sri Lanka. Their bowlers ensured they won the session, but their batsmen have a monumental task ahead if they are to claw their way back into the game.